There’s so much beauty around us and in us… the miracle of the human body, the symphony of sounds around, the eye that seeks aesthetic beauty, the joy of making meaning and the way the imagination leaps, and the heartfelt love of grace and growth and goodwill between beings.
Thich Nhat Hanh says: “The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling truly alive.”
So aliveness, vitality. We don’t just want to release stress, we want to feel alive, right? And the senses are the portal to aliveness, in the body. Rolling on the grass, feeling the cool ocean waves slapping against our skin, the taste of salt, holding another human hand… we can only experience this kind of aliveness by sensing, in the body.
Celtic poet John O’Donahue speaks of this as a sacred sensuality. When the mind is in the body, and the intellect gives way to feeling and sensing, there is endless energy and presence.
I find rich delight in running my hands down the furrowed bark of a great tree, so sensual; an experience that summons me to presence, as the flesh and nerves of the fingers learn the feel of each inch, intimately. It can be so surprising. And heart-opening.
There’s an innocence to the senses. As children, it’s the way we experienced all of life, knowing the world through touch, taste, sight, sound, smell. As toddlers, we want to know a thing? We pick it up, we touch it, taste it! Our early knowings of the world were tactile, sensory, before school and work and technology brought down their barricades of over-thinking, and body-knowing became suffocated by textbooks and google searches. In this, we sacrifice the endless openness of wonder and oneness for the limiting left-brain polarity of right and wrong.
Yet that childlike wonder keeps calling… ever watched an infant play with water? The awe of scooping up this shining, dancing liquid… the pouring and gushing and streaming and splashing of droplets… giggling at its warm, wet feel on our shining skin… how does this water move with ease, yet find its level stillness in each rock pool, each waterhole, each plastic beaker? To ripple and dance again at the touch of a fingertip? Isn’t this why we volunteer to look after the nieces, nephews and grandchildren? So we can vicariously come alive again, through their adventures into sense?
Children truly have ‘beginners’ mind’ in each moment. So the good news for us adults is that we know how to do this. We did this, for ten years of our lives at least. And so the way to sensual surrender is in us, if we can let go the grip of the consuming mind. Surrendering back into pleasure and joy, by following the honesty of instinct.
Honesty… why so? We might ask. When we are led by instinct, the wishes and needs of the human animal speak directly with curiosity and pleasure. There’s no hiding what we want, no shame. We are, as Mary Oliver says, letting the soft animal of our body love what it loves. We return again to The Garden of Eden, as innocent creatures, loving nature and beloved of her.
Inhale the heady scent of frangipani, and let her fragrance fill your being. Nose so close, her petals graze your lips. Their soft kiss sparking your devotion, as your heart bursts forth in bloom. A simple walk along the street finds us falling in love, over and over again, with the summertime flowers and the proudness of trees.
Extract from Listening Deeply To Nature, available as a book and audio course.